Inaugural medical class urged to connect with patients

May 14, 2017

Medical students stand during a commencement ceremony

Dr. Jonathan LaPook, chief medical correspondent for CBS News, suggested that the 58 School of Medicine graduates seated before him remember what it feels like to be a patient and the emotions they feel — from helplessness to embarrassment to fear — when he spoke at the Commencement ceremony for the inaugural class of the Frank H. Netter MD School of Medicine on May 14.

“I know you’ve been studying for years to learn the science of medicine, but today I’m also asking you to consider the art of healing. Don’t let all those facts and figures crowd out your ability to connect with your patients,” he said.

Everybody has to find a comfort level, LaPook said.

"For me, erring on the side of too empathetic is the way to go," he said. "Patients pick up on it, and if they feel you really care, they’re more likely to open up to you."

A key way of achieving that is through effective communication, LaPook told members of the Class of 2017.

"These days, there’s a lot to explain, and it’s tough to do that if you have only 15 or 20 minutes with a patient. The key is taking complex topics and presenting them in simple, accessible terms. So communicating clearly — and succinctly — is an important skill. Work on it," he urged.

He implored members of the inaugural class to turn away from computer screens and look their patients directly in their eyes.

“What’s going to distinguish you as true healers is the way you embrace humility, compassion and empathy,” he explained. “Understand the extraordinary importance of listening. And realize that even when you don’t have the answer for a patient in need, you can still help — with a sympathetic ear, a reassuring touch of the hand and by sticking by them, through sickness and health.”

LaPook is a professor of medicine at the New York University School of Medicine and Mebane Professor of Gastroenterology at NYU Langone Medical Center. He is also executive director of NYU’s Langone Empathy Project, which seeks to promote a culture of empathy in medicine.

Each graduate matched to residencies around the country in March.

Graduates and their families were welcomed by Charissa DiNobile, president of the Class of 2017.

"We helped each other in a way only medical students — and only the first class — knew how," she told her fellow graduates. "We did this — and I am so incredibly proud of us."

The idea of community was a common theme throughout the ceremony.

Frank H. Netter MD School of Medicine Founding Dean Bruce Koeppen commended the graduates for completing the milestone together — and thanking the university community for supporting the new school during its development.

"We're here today because the entire Quinnipiac community came together to support us," he said as he fought back tears of pride.

"I know you will make us proud — because you have already done so," he said to the students he has worked closely with since the first days of the medical school.

Christine Van Cott, a surgical oncologist at St. Vincent’s Medical Center in Bridgeport, Connecticut and assistant professor of surgery and surgical clerkship director at the medical school, told graduates that being a doctor would now be their identity.

“Being a doctor is hard. Being a good doctor is even harder — and being a great doctor feels like it’s sometimes impossible,” she said.

She encouraged graduates to always look out for their patients’ interests — especially when it’s not easy.

“Always speak for those who can’t speak for themselves and protect those who can’t protect themselves,” she urged the Class of 2017. “Always find value in your patients. Today you’re a doctor. It’s not just what you do, it’s who you ar

The ceremony concluded with the recitation of the Hippocratic Oath.

Five Master of Medical Science in Anesthesiologist Assistant degrees were also conferred at the ceremony.

Both LaPook and Barbara Netter were awarded honorary doctor of humane letter degrees. Through the generosity of renowned philanthropists Netter and her late husband, Edward, the Frank H. Netter MD School of Medicine was named in honor of Edward’s first cousin, the famed medical illustrator. Netter, a practicing therapist, is the co-founder and honorary chairman of the Alliance for Cancer Gene Therapy, which awards grants to scientists researching gene therapy’s potential as a cure and treatment method for cancer.

The School of Medicine educates diverse, patient-centered physicians who are partners and leaders in an interprofessional health care workforce, responsive to health care needs in the communities they serve. Students from diverse backgrounds are encouraged to attain their highest personal and professional potential in a collaborative, student-centered environment that fosters academic excellence, scholarship, lifelong learning, respect and inclusivity.

The school embodies the university’s commitment to our core values of excellence, a student-oriented education, and a strong sense of community. Accordingly, the Netter School values:

  • A learning environment that promotes the provision of holistic, patient centered care.
  • Interprofessional education and service-learning experiences that promote teamwork in the care of patients.
  • Clinical partners that support and promote the school’s vision, mission and values.
  • Social justice and the education of physicians to address health care inequalities.
  • Partnerships within our community that provide students with learning and service opportunities that also improve the health of the community.
  • Advancement and support of primary care education and health services research through the school’s Institute for Primary Care.
  • Advancement of global health through the school’s Institute for Global Public Health by promoting community medicine, public health and international partnerships.
  • Advancement of rehabilitation medicine through the school’s Institute for Rehabilitation Medicine by promoting care, servicesand research programs, especially for wounded military personnel.

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